Posts Tagged ‘Getting Customers’

Delight with These Automated Customer Service Strategies

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Looking for easy ways to deliver impeccable customer service?

Nothing’s easier than automation. Set it up once, and you’re golden. From triggered emails that keep customers engaged to helpful onboarding emails that guide your visitors into a desired action, there are a ton of fantastic ways to be present for your customers (even when you’re not actually there).

This may sound ironic, but automation can actually forge a more human connection with your customers. The Internet can be cold and unwelcoming. You can counter-balance that by anticipating the needs of your customers and setting up experiences that help them succeed. With just a little planning and foresight, your automated interactions will feel intuitive and even interactive.

Let’s get into the details of how to create these experiences with your customers. We’ll take a look at the best and easiest ways to automate customer service without sounding robotic or disengaged.

Check out this awesome list of automated emails to send to your customers (and when).

Why Use Automation?

Not sure if you should automate your customer service?

At first glance, customer service automation sounds pretty soulless. If your customers don’t actually interact with a real human, how can you deliver a delightful, individualized experience?

That’s a valid question, and here’s the equally valid answer:

Automation allows you to respond to the 21st-century customer– the type who uses the Internet and doesn’t want to wait until for normal business hours for an answer to their question. On the Internet, everything’s open 24 hours a day. There’s no such thing as Monday through Friday business hours.

It’s old school madness to expect your customers to wait hours, or days even, to get in touch with a real human.

By automating your customer service, you can help your customers solve their issues as quickly as possible without waiting on human intervention. According to this study conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics, the majority of American consumers prefer self-service customer service. A whooping 65% of customers feel positive about both themselves and the company when they can solve a problem without contacting human support.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Most customers, particularly millennials, prefer to avoid human interaction. For a huge portion of your customer base, it’s actually a loss to contact a customer support agent. But that doesn’t mean that you should abandon customer service altogether– instead, make your customer service more self-service friendly. Hello, automated customer service.

Another benefit of automating your customer service is scalability. You’re able to reach many more people when you automate interactions. It’s a lot easier to create one message that can be automatically delivered upon trigger than it is to keep writing that same email over and over again. You’ll free up your customer service staff to focus on the issues that truly need human intervention.

And last, but not least, automating your customer service shows that you care.

Have you ever reached out to a company via email and then… crickets. You didn’t receive a “Hey, we got your email and we’re working on it” response. You sat there wondering, “Did they receive my message? Maybe I should send again…” Don’t banish your customers to this communication purgatory.

When you send a response– even if it’s an automated one– you reassure your customer. You also communicate that you care about the customer’s experience.

Next, let’s discuss how to implement automated customer service in your business.

Anticipate the Needs of Your Customers

When will your customers need your attention or support the most?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that customer service is reactive. The best customer service is proactive, especially when it comes to automation. If you can anticipate when your customers are most likely to need you, you can create systems to guide the customer into your desired course of action.

Here are two stages when your customers are more likely to need your support:

Before Becoming Customers

The majority of your first-time visitors simply won’t be ready to buy. You’ve got to nurture them from prospect to customer– and you can automate a big chunk of that process.

Whether you offer a free trial or a free lead magnet in hopes of wooing visitors onto your subscriber list, you can use automated systems to invite and then deliver the goods.

Then, you can stay connected to your prospects through ongoing automated email (more on this a little later).

During Onboarding

Once you’ve converted a prospect into a customer, you can use automation to deepen their engagement with your app. Setup trigger emails or messages that help the user find success in using your product. For example, if it’s been a week since the user last logged in, send an email that prompts the user to do so.

The onboarding process is about guiding your customers to success when using your app. Automation can help keep your customers engaged from the very beginning.

Ask yourself this question:

How can you help your customers have an enjoyable and delightful experience with your app?

Get detailed and use these answers to create an almost intuitive customer onboarding experience.

Automatically Route Incoming Emails

Are you segmenting the emails that arrive in your general “help” inbox? If not, you should.

It’s not an efficient use of time to individually sort through every email to figure out which department you should forward the email to. Set up filters and route emails that contain specific keywords or phrases to the right department automatically.

Send a Series of Automated Emails

Email allows you to serve your customers while also staying top of mind. Use email to deliver anticipatory customer service.

Feed a steady stream of helpful emails to your customers. Teach your customers how to use your product– this is a big part of customer service. Offer in-depth tutorials, share how-to videos, and link back to your knowledge base.

Create a series of automated emails, such as a tour of your app, a list of best practices, and common customer uses. Schedule those emails to send at specific intervals that coincide with your free trial, if applicable. Then, set those emails to send whenever someone signs up for your service.

How to Begin Automating Your Customer Service

Get Retained. We’ll help you automate your customer service and increase your customer retention rate. By providing you with actionable insight about your customers, it allows you to rescue those who are in danger of churning. Follow the predictive clues to figure out who you need to reach out to before it’s too late.

If you haven’t already, get your invitation to Retained here now.

Don’t forget to download this list of automated emails to send to your customers.

How SaaS Can Harness Influencer Marketing

Monday, January 9th, 2017

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You’re marketing your business, but you’ve become stuck. Maybe you’re trying to break into the scene and don’t have any fans. Maybe you’ve hit a wall and can’t seem to raise your profile.

In either case, you need a boost. You’re already using email marketing or social media marketing. You need something to accelerate your growth and capture more fans and customers.

Influencer marketing is the strategy you need.

Get the bonus content:Use our free pitch template to reach out to potential influencers.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is pretty simple. You’re exposed to it countless times a day in one form or another.

There’s a reason Nike’s Air Jordan is one of the best selling sneakers of all time – it’s been closely linked to basketball legend Michael Jordan (so close it’s named after him). It comes with his endorsement.

And endorsements are a big deal. Kristen Matthews, Director of Marketing at influencer intelligence app GroupHigh says “People are wired to trust a third party recommendation more than someone talking about themselves. Whether it’s a guy at a cocktail party trying to promote himself for a date or a brand trying to convince a consumer that they are the best—it’s all the same.”

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, we’re far more likely to trust recommendations than any other form of advertising, even if we know the recommendations are part of a marketing program.
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Image: marketingcharts.com

Basically, influencer marketing is the leveraging of key leaders to promote your brand. It means using someone else’s audience to grow your own by having the influencer share your content to their fans or make an outright recommendation of your business.

Influencer marketing is leveraging other people’s audiences to help grow your own.

An influencer is someone with an audience that’s similar to your own. If you don’t have much of an audience yet, target influencers who have audiences similar to who you think your audience should be.

How do you find influencers?

You don’t need a giant list of influencers. In fact, due to the majority illusion, you only need a few. Research from the USC Information Sciences Institute found that it only takes a few influential people to create an appearance that everyone is talking about your brand.

This means you don’t have to build a giant list of potential influencers. You should target a small list of people who would make the best symbiotic relationships (part of working with an influencer is providing value to them as well, but more on that in a minute).

Finding influencers isn’t an easy task. 75% of marketers say identifying influential people is the hardest part of performing outreach.
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Image: emarketer.com

  1. They’re active – Don’t waste your time on anyone who hasn’t blogged or Tweeted in more than two months. They might be influential, but they aren’t useful if they aren’t engaging with other people.
  1. They aren’t too big – Sorry, Bill Gates isn’t going to plug your B2B SaaS. He won’t respond because you don’t offer anything substantial in return for his time. Instead of going after the biggest fish, approach smaller influencers who are willing to partner for your level of reciprocity. As your audience grows, approach more influential people.
  1. They’re relevant – Sharing a similar audience isn’t enough. An influencer’s brand needs to relate to your brand. For example, a social media scheduling tool would have the same audience as social media manager, but the manager isn’t likely to plug your product because he wants to steer people to his services.
  1. They must have an engaged audience – Potential influencers need to have an audience that actually pays attention to them. There are plenty of “influential” people with thousands of followers (some of which may be fake, purchased accounts), but they never get any likes, comments, shares or retweets. These people aren’t any use to you. Engagement is tough to measure. All you can do is look through the influencers feed to see if fans are active.

Now that you know what makes a good influencer, let’s find some.

Step 1: Start your list with people you already know

There’s a chance you already know of several influential people in your industry who share the same audience. Put them on the list right away. Pitching them will be easier than pitching unknown people because you’re familiar with their work. Add their names, URLs, and Twitter handles to a spreadsheet.

Step 2: Use an influencer scoring index

An influencer scoring index is an application that runs algorithms on different online personas to determine their influence on the web. They aren’t perfect, but they’re good for inspiration. Check out PeerIndex, Followerwonk, Klout and Kred.

Step 3: Search for relevant topics in BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a tool that shows you the most shared pages on the web. Search for a basic topic that an influential person in your niche is sure to have covered. For example, a sales expert must have written something about setting up a sales funnel. You would search for “sales funnel” and see who wrote the most shared articles.

Step 4: Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups

Groups on these two social networks are often run influential people. Even if their creators are not especially influential, they are definitely trying to be influential, which means they’ll be willing to work with you. Search for your niche, join as many groups as you can and poke around.

Step 5: Scour Twitter and follow accounts

Finding influential people on Twitter is simple. First, search for a keyword in the search box. You can use a hashtag if you’re sure an influencer in your niche would have used it. Second, click the “People” filter. This will bring up a list of account. Start investigating and following each.

Step 6: Look at the retweets/shares

Follow people in your industry, even if you don’t think they are influential. Watch who they retweet and share. Do you notice any trends or patterns? Whose name pops up in conversations?

At this point you should have at least five or 10 names on your list. It’s alright if you have a lot more than that, too. All niches are different; some are more popular than others. If you have a lot, pick out the top 10 that are most likely to work with you.

How can you partner with influencers?

Working with influencers is about building a relationship. They’ll expect you to give just as much as you take. The key is to become a valuable person to them.

The best way to open a dialogue with potential influencers is to give them something without asking for any compensation. You could offer free exposure by asking for a quote to fit into your next article. Or you could start with a simple, “Hey I loved your post on [topic], I shared it wherever I could.”

Make sure to find other ways to pop up on your influencer’s radar. For instance, you could go through some of their Twitter history and retweet whatever’s relevant to your audience. You could link to the influencer a few times from your website (then send a quick “Hey, just to let you know” email).

Any correspondence with the influencer should be personal. It’s OK to use a template email to reach out to new people, but customize it considerably for the receiver. Make sure you’re familiar with their work and their brand so you can say meaningful things.

You should be focusing on the top 10 people who can make a difference to your brand, not hundreds of people. So invest time and effort into building new relationships.

Finally, be open with the influencer about your goals. They know how the world works too. They want to grow their brand as well. Tell them that you’re looking to partner with influential people and you’re happy to reciprocate wherever you can.

This free pitch template will help you contact influencers and build relationships.

The Result

Over time, you’ll build a network of VIPs who mean a lot to your brand. You’ll notify them of content before you tell your email list or social fans.

You’ll give them opportunities to comment on your content. You’ll give them chances to test your new features and give feedback before anyone else. You might even give them discounts on your service or commissions on affiliate sales.
In time, your influencers will become partners who genuinely want to grow your brand.

7 Mistakes You’re Making in Retaining Your Customers

Monday, October 17th, 2016

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Does your SaaS have a “leakage” problem?

Retention and churn figures go hand in hand and are key metrics for SaaS, yet knowing what they are and doing something about them are quite different things. Many SaaS are failing miserably when it comes to retention and find themselves in a routine pattern of trying to plug up a leaky boat.

Need a quick retention checklist? Get ours here:

If your SaaS is one of those, you may be making one of these critical mistakes which impact your retention:

#1. Your Key Focus Is Acquisition

When you think of the analogy of a sales funnel, where your new acquisitions come in at the top and the width narrows on the way through as fewer people move all the way through with you, retention problems can be akin to having a hole at the bottom of your funnel.

It doesn’t matter how many new acquisitions you keep pulling in at the top if you have that leakage problem at the bottom.

One of the important things to remember is that churn isn’t the problem, it’s the symptom of something else going on in your business. For example, if your focus is largely acquisition, but you’re then leaving customers to fend for themselves once you’ve got them onboard, there’s a good chance you’ll see this result in churn issues.

Of course you need to give focus to acquisition, but that’s not where your plan should end. Customer success journey mapping is a great strategy for laying out a plan which will give you that holistic view of how the customer moves through your organization, not just a view which says “get them onboard at all costs.”

Client Success looked at journey mapping recently and defined some best practices for preparing maps:

  1. Always look at the journey from the customer perspective.
  2. Identify any handoffs between departments in your customer journey.
  3. Define your customer success milestones.
  4. Share your map with trusted clients and have them validate it.
  5. Measure and optimize regularly.

Journey mapping helps to reinforce that you can’t just put all your efforts into acquisition, then sit back, hoping the customer wants to stick around. As you can see from the Client Success example below, there are touch points that go with each stage so you’ve got to put that work in.

customer-success-journey-map-example-clientsuccess

#2. You’re Not Asking for Engagement

No matter how you look at it, a customer who is not using your product is probably not going to keep paying for it. You might think “oh well, it mustn’t have been the right app for them”, but how would they even know that if they haven’t had the opportunity to try?

Look, we’re bombarded with new information, emails, content and the latest, most exciting new technology constantly. There’s a good chance that someone not in the habit of using your app simply forgets to put it to work, especially when it’s not yet part of their daily ritual. Next thing, they see you billing their credit card, think “oh, that’s right, well I’m not even using that” and they cancel.

You may have been able to prevent this simply by asking for engagement from their very first interaction with you. When Totango did some research on SaaS use, they found around 50% of customers weren’t using the service they were paying for. This immediately puts those people at high risk of cancelling.

You’re not going to win them all, you just can’t. However, you can do your best to engage them while you have them and hopefully ensure that more people become active users.

Some ways of asking for engagement include:

  • Push notifications for apps.
  • Emails encouraging customers to try different features.
  • Phone calls from your customer success team.
  • Incentivizing product tours (for example, Dropbox offers free space for taking their product tour).

 

You need to give yourself the best chance of getting in front of the customer and demonstrating the value of your app.

#3. You’re Not Delivering Value

It could be that your app simply doesn’t deliver what users want. It happens, though hopefully you did enough research before producing it that this simply isn’t the case. The other possibility is that the customer simply doesn’t see the value of your app, a possibility which can certainly happen if you haven’t asked for engagement.

How will the customer realize value if they don’t try it and see it?

It comes back to understanding what your customer success milestones are (those key steps which a customer has to take to see value from your app) and driving engagement so that they reach them.

#4. You’re Inaccessible

How easy is it for your customers to get help or to submit a support ticket? Some SaaS are notoriously difficult, with queries not being followed up unless the customer goes back and asks, or with deciphering how to get help being difficult in the first place.

Most people can’t be bothered spending money on something which they’re going to need help with, but even more so if that help is hard to find.

The solution is to make getting help easy and obvious. The customer shouldn’t have to click around looking or wait for lengthy periods of time for a response.

Part of this is accountability too. From time to time there are always bugs or upgrades happening within an app and being upfront and accessible shows that you’re transparent and probably a trustworthy bet for the customer.

#5. You’re Not Personalizing

Tobin Lehman described failing to personalize the experience as “the biggest” SaaS retention mistake. Why? As he points out, this can be explained using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We’re not buying the software because we want software, we’re buying it to solve a need that we have and for each customer, that need may be different.

“The truth is that your SaaS not only fulfills some tactical or basic needs, it also fills some emotional needs higher up the hierarchy. And in the customer experience many marketers neglect this hidden contract with the consumer that your product is doing more than providing a service. It’s providing an avenue to the experience of this person’s daily life.”

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The suggestion is that your retention process should heavily focus on developing relationships with your customers and being able to offer a personal touch.

Depending on your business model, you may not be able to offer large-scale personal service, but you can make your interactions more personalized by segmenting customers appropriately and keeping your messages to them relevant.

Instead of blanket email blasts, try sending out emails based on behaviors and activities. This helps to convey a message that you “know” your customer better.

#6. You’re Not Proactive

Ideally, you don’t want to be waiting until there is some kind of issue to take action. You need to be monitoring constantly and noticing potential churn issues before they have turned into a full-blown churn event.

For example, are you monitoring for expired or cancelled credit cards? This is a common reason for churn, but by using the right software (such as Retained for any SaaS using Stripe), you can send out early alerts to your customers to remind them to update their credit card details before their next billing cycle.

You should also be monitoring sentiment about your app and general chatter about it (on social media, for example, or through surveying your customers). If there are complaints, comments or requests which come up regularly, you may have an issue that should be addressed early before it turns into a cause for churn.

Another big one is any changes in the pattern of use of the customer. If they were usually a twice weekly user, but have only logged in once over the last month, this reduction in use may indicate they’re not happy anymore and looking to move on. This is where you need to be reaching out and just asking the customer how things are going.

#7. You’re Not Focusing on Features that Matter

It’s almost always the case with SaaS that, over time, you’ll find certain features are much more important to your customers than others. These are your “moneymakers” and are a large part of why the customer decided to sign up with you.

If you’re devoting a whole lot of time to new, extra features, but neglecting any essential fixes or updates to those core features, you’re setting yourself up to annoy customers and trigger churn. Want retention? Devote your main focus to those features which really matter to customers.

Have you nailed customer retention? Grab our free checklist:

Final Thoughts

We all want better customer retention, but remember if you’re experiencing more churn than you’d like, that is not the real problem you have. Churn is a symptom of something else somewhere that you’re not meeting the needs of the customer or not even getting out of the gate there because you haven’t engaged the customer in the first place.

Map out a plan which includes the entire customer journey (not just for acquisition!), and look for ways to better engage or meet their needs. The hope is that your funnel turns into more of a flask, with no significant numbers cancelling.